My doorbell rang, and when I opened my front door there was a large, opened brown box sitting on my stoop against the door. I assumed someone accidentally left something for Purple Heart or Goodwill to pick up, as there were random items piled high inside. I discovered a letter on top written to my ex-husband, but it was clear it was intended for me to read.
A wave of sickness washed over me. I took the box into my bedroom, not wanting my kids to see what I was soon to discover. In addition to the incriminating letter of his countless infidelities throughout our marriage, the woman who left the box also gifted me with her personal diary. She shared how she met him online on Seeking Arrangements and chronicled their time together, in detail.
I was finally healing from a traumatic divorce after watching my children get dragged into a court system that broke us all, only to then receive this gift.
Reading another woman’s diary about her time with my then husband was soul shattering.
“You are a really terrible person. You’re nothing you claim to be. And you’re everything you are afraid you are. You are truly an incurable narcissist, and your punishment in life is to be exactly who you are. Someone incapable of true love, or ever putting anyone in front of yourself…even your kids.” Reading her words it was apparent she clearly knew him well.
I knew my ex was a sick man, but after 18 years of marriage, and three children, it was still so heartbreaking to admit. Now, I had no doubt he was a complete sociopath. I no longer needed a psychologist to interview him or test him to affirm this– his actions, lack of empathy and countless pathological lies demonstrated that all by themselves.
During my marriage I learned to compartmentalize my fears, but in my deepest sleep, I couldn’t protect my mind from wandering freely. I used to wake up in the middle of the night with dreams that he was cheating on me. They felt frighteningly real.
“There is something seriously wrong with you if you’re mad at me for something that happened in a dream,” he would say.
He made me question my own intuition. He knew that I was tortured by these dreams. His endless lies created a distorted reality for me as he trained me to disregard my own inner voice.
I was barely functioning. I decided to run away while my kids were away at camp. I escaped to Sorrento, a small city resting on a bluff with the most magical views of Mount Vesuvius and the dreamlike island of Capri. The water was the most spectacular mix of green and blue and I immediately felt all the tension of the past year slowly releasing out of my body. My kids were all taken care of and I would not have to hear from my ex (I hoped). I could breathe deeply. I felt the enormous mental pressure of the past few years slowly ebbing.
Immediately, I fell in love with the energy of Sorrento. The relaxing cafes, endless charming shops, and the friendly and gracious locals. Sorrento is also well-connected by rail, bus and the ferry lines, which made it easy for me to
access all of the Amalfi Coast. I spent time in Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, and the islands of Capri and Ischia. I hiked to the top of Mount Vesuvius and explored the ruins of the ancient Roman city, Pompeii. While in Ischia, I rode on the back of a scooter “taxi” with the wind on my face and I was grateful I was able to experience moments like this in my life.
I trekked the cliff top trail above the Amalfi Coast, called the Path of the Gods, which has its name for a very obvious reason. If you didn’t believe in God before the hike, it would be hard not to after witnessing the most magnificent views. I kayaked the breathtaking coastline outside Sorrento (shout out to Umberto, the best tour guide). I swam and filled my days and evenings capturing the true magic of the Amalfi Coast.
I visited every art gallery I could find. I became fascinated with the inlaid wood boxes at the many family-run stores. There were many of these stores in Sorrento, and all along the Amalfi Coast. Many combined the ancient wood-working techniques of Sorrento with modern design. I loved speaking with the shop owners, many which were fifth-and sixth-generation artists.
As I watched the many couples walking the streets strolling hand in hand, I noticed many of the women turning to walk into a store and the man giving her hand a gentle nudge to continue walking ahead. I pictured if I was there with my ex, he would have had zero patience for me to walk into any of the stores that did not interest him. I was grateful that my days were filled with doing things I loved on my own time. This was new to me. I had a feeling of legerity as I walked the cobblestone streets and I found myself smiling more easily.
A couple years ago, I was in an REI store and the employee helping me told me she believes every woman needs to take one adventurous trip all by herself in her lifetime. So many of my friends were astounded that I was traveling alone for three weeks. Some admitted they would be too scared. Some said they would get too bored.
The woman from REI knew exactly what she was talking about. There’s something about waking up and knowing you do not have to consult with anyone else, you can do whatever it is you want to do that day. It was empowering for me to walk the streets myself, to eat by myself, and I loved getting dressed up. I have never felt more alive, more beautiful and happier as, well, it’s been so long I can’t remember. I was also amazed to see so many young women in their early 20s backpacking alone. They were inspiring. I participated in several Italian cooking classes, where I learned how to make authentic pasta dishes, limoncello, pizza and tiramisu.
It was over these three weeks that my healing began. After four years of never-ending trauma, it was time. I decided I was not going to let my life be cut short any longer. I had passions and dreams, and these three weeks reminded me it’s not only time that heals, but also what you do with your time.
Art, culture, cooking, dancing, faith, and being in touch with nature all brought me to the place I needed to be. I had not felt this alive in a long time. I was able to recognize my strength and courage. This trip was empowering to me and reinforced that taking time to be with myself is so beneficial and therapeutic. I felt optimistic that I would continue to heal and evolve.
After I returned home, I made a real effort to continue healing even when facing the reality of life. My kids were my number one priority, but as my older two were off to college and my daughter was thriving, I decided to pursue my dream of working in fashion. As I began NANDANIE, a women’s luxury necktie brand with a mission to fuel women with confidence, I could not be more humbled to now be selling ties in Sorrento, Italy. I want women who wear a NANDANIE tie to remember who they are and stand up for themselves in all situations. I hope when couples stroll the streets of Sorrento hand-in-hand this summer, the women tug back at their husbands or boyfriends‘ nudges to keep walking and stop to shop NANDANIE.
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